The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News

Eight men out11.03.11

Last winter, when Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter became free agents, there never any real doubt they’d end up back with the Yankees. This winter, there’s no guarantee that any of the Yankees free agents will be back. Several would be logical fits, but none is a slam dunk for the Yankees to re-sign.

Today is the first day free agents are allowed to negotiate with every team — not just their previous team — meaning it’s suddenly open season for these eight Yankees.

Luis Ayala
Signed as a minor league free agent late last winter, Ayala landed the last spot on the big league roster out of spring training, then stuck with the team all season. He was surprisingly effective, and for a short time — when Rafael Soriano and Joba Chamberlain were hurt — he settled in as a key late-inning reliever. He may have pitched well enough to earn a big league deal, but should the Yankees be the team to give it to him? Most of their bullpen spots are accounted for as it is.

Eric Chavez
From superstar in Oakland to role player in New York, Chavez is still deciding whether he wants to keep playing. Injuries have taken their toll, and if he’s going to play again, it’s almost certainly going to be in a situation similar to this season. The Yankees have a place for a player like Chavez. Whether that player is Chavez himself may depend on whether Chavez decides to play again.

Bartolo Colon
Maybe the biggest surprise of the season, Colon clearly faded in the second half, and that may be cause for enough concern that the Yankees won’t want to bring him back. It would be impossible to count on Colon to be effective through an entire season, but keeping him in a relief role might keep him fresh and effective. Certainly Colon opened some eyes, but what kind of deal would it take to bring him back, and has all of the lightning escaped the bottle?

Freddy Garcia
The Yankees No. 5 starter out of spring training was their No. 3 starter in the playoffs. Garcia is what he is — he doesn’t throw hard and gets by on guts and savvy — but he’s proven he can be effective in this form. The Yankees have a large batch of young starters climbing through the system, and Garcia might be a perfect short-term commitment for back-of-the-rotation depth. He’s not the only fit, but he could be a good fit.

Andruw Jones
After a slow first half, Jones was exactly what the Yankees hoped for in the second half, and they’re once again going to have a spot for a right-handed outfielder who can be a platoon starter in the corners. Jones is in the same boat as Garcia and Chavez: He’s the type of player the Yankees will want for next season, but he’s not the only one who could fill that role.

Damaso Marte
At this point, I’m not sure anyone knows what Marte could provide. He hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since July of 2010, and he’s coming back from shoulder surgery that limited him to just a few minor league innings this year. The Yankees could use another left-handed reliever, and there’s a chance Marte would accept a minor league deal to prove himself in spring training. If not, it’s hard to see him coming back to the Yankees.

Sergio Mitre
The Yankees didn’t have room for Mitre last spring, and they shipped him to Milwaukee for Chris Dickerson.  When he came back to the Yankees mid-season — this year’s version of Chad Gaudin — Mitre lasted all of four outings before he was on the disabled list and lost for the season. Obviously the Yankees like Mitre, but his time might have come and gone with plenty of in-house options to fill a long-relief/spot-starter role.

Jorge Posada
Nothing new to be said. Even before his career-worst season, it was unclear whether the Yankees would have a place for Posada next season. They clearly no longer view Posada as a catcher, and they have need to give DH at-bats to Alex Rodriguez — not to mention Jesus Montero — and if Posada’s no longer a catcher, he’s limited to DH and a few backup appearances in the field. It’s not a comfortable situation for either side, but Posada’s time with the Yankees might have ended.

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Pregame notes: Rodriguez on track to return next week08.09.11

The tarp just came off the field and it looks like there’s at least a chance of starting tonight’s game on time. I thought there was no chance just a few hours ago, but Joe Girardi said he’s been hearing that the game will probably be played.

On to big picture news.

Alex Rodriguez ran the bases today. He did his usual batting practice and fielding drills, but it’s the running that’s most significant. Girardi said Rodriguez is still on track to begin a rehab assignment this weekend — either Friday or Saturday, Girardi said — and it’s a good bet that he’ll be with the Yankees next week on the road.

“I don’t know if Monday is realistic,” Girardi said. “Part of it probably depends on where he starts and how he feels in those next couple of games. But I think next week is realistic.”

Girardi said he’s not sure how many rehab games Rodriguez will need.

“I guess theoretically it could be one, but you can’t really say,” Girardi said. “You don’t know how he’s going to feel and you don’t know if he’s going to have his timing. You don’t know if he’s going to feel stable on his knee running the bases. You can’t just throw a random number out there. When he’s ready, we’ll have him back, I can tell you that.”

• Phil Hughes starts Saturday. Freddy Garcia starts Sunday. For now, the Yankees are sticking with a six-man rotation. “I don’t know how much longer we’ll stick with that,” Girardi said. “Obviously we’ve got the split doubleheader in Baltimore and we have to be prepared for that too.”

• Could either Hughes or Garcia be available out of the bullpen? “We’d probably stay away from them,” Girardi said. “If we had to, yes, but our bullpen is in pretty good shape.”

• Sergio Mitre is going for a second opinion after being diagnoses with a pinch nerve in his shoulder. An MRI showed no structural damage, but a nerve problem is causing Mitre to lose considerable arm strength (fastball velocity suddenly dropped by about 6 mph, he said). The second opinion is determine whether surgery is necessary, but Mitre is going into it believing he has  “90 percent” chance of surgery. How long he’s out depends entirely on how quickly the nerve recovers.

• According to the latest AP update from Tampa, Pedro Feliciano threw 42 pitches in the bullpen today and is scheduled for live batting practice on Friday. Even so, Girardi said Feliciano is still a longshot to pitch for the Yankees this season.

• Other Tampa updates via the AP: Ramiro Pena started swinging a bat… Damaso Marte threw a 32-pitch bullpen… Mark Prior pitched in another rookie league game.

• Once again out of the Yankees lineup, Jorge Posada seemed just as frustrated today as he was after he and Girardi had their conversation on Sunday. Posada spoke only briefly. “You wouldn’t expect any player to be necessarily happy if he’s taken from a role,” Girardi said. “I was a full-time catcher and reduced to less catching. I didn’t like it. I just kept working at it and trying to get better. As a player, that’s really the only thing you can do – be prepared and when you get your chance, perform and do the best you can.”

• Russell Martin’s mustache is no longer the worst Yankees look of the year. A.J. Burnett has gone with totally blonde hair. It’s… a curious decision. Martin literally offered a no comment on the situation, but he did laugh a little when I brought it up.

Erick Aybar SS
Howie Kendrick 2B
Bobby Abreu DH
Torii Hunter RF
Mark Trumbo 1B
Vernon Wells LF
Maicer Izturis 3B
Peter Bourjos CF
Jeff Mathis C

Associated Press photos

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Postgame notes: “We know he can be better”07.07.11

Here’s what struck me about tonight’s postgame conversations about Phil Hughes: They were perfectly normal. They were about a pitcher needing to be more downhill with his delivery and needing to put away a few more hitters with two strikes. They weren’t about a pitcher with a dead arm or a weak shoulder or a mysterious inability to pitch at this level.

These weren’t the same conversations we were having three months ago.

“People are going to say it’s a good outing, but we know that he can be better,” Joe Girardi said. “We know that he can be downhill more… I talked about with the extra days off and the first outing, my concern was that he would be up a little bit. That’s what we saw.”

Hughes’ stuff was pretty much the same in the fifth as it was in the first. He didn’t fatigue suddenly or drastically, and his fastball pretty much sat around 92 mph. There were some 93s and some 91s, but he was more or less 92 all night.

“That’s right where I need to be,” Hughes said. “But it was more an issue of location and putting hitters away tonight.”

Hughes went five innings and allowed two runs, both in the first inning. He gave up six hits, but all of them were singles. He walked two batters and hit two batters, but he pitched pretty well with runners on base. Hughes said rust and adrenalin might have had something to do with mechanics that were a little bit off, but that seemed fixable.

If you were hoping for an overwhelming, dominant return from Hughes, this wasn’t it. But considering where he was three months ago, this was a clear sign that Hughes has gotten better. He’s a viable big league starter again.

“It’s nice to go out there and actually have stuff you feel like you can compete with,” Hughes said. “In the first inning I felt like my mechanics were a little off today, and I was trying to make adjustments and talking to Larry in between innings about what I needed to do, but I never really felt like I got into a groove. I think it kind of stemmed from that first inning, and not being able to get out of that inning as quickly as I would have liked.”

Here’s Hughes. Fair warning, there was a lot of noise in the clubhouse, especially toward the end of this clip, when people were cleaning up dishes.

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• Derek Jeter was one of the few Yankees who actually had some good at-bats against Indians starter Justin Masterson. He struck out in the first inning, but he drove a ball to center field in the third inning, drew a walk in the sixth and doubled to the opposite field in the eighth. “I feel pretty good,” Jeter said. “Yesterday I thought I had some good at-bats. Sometimes guys are going to make pitches and you look foolish, but today especially I thought I had some good swings.”

• I’m not sure whether you’ve heard, but Jeter’s closing in on 3,000 hits, and tonight’s double put him three away. He has four home games coming up. “I’m looking forward to it,” Jeter said. “I wish I would have gotten more today, but it wasn’t the case. I’m definitely looking forward to going back to New York.”

• Kind of an uneven night for Boone Logan, who got some big outs but also hit a batter and gave up a solo homer to a rookie lefty. Logan’s been pitching pretty well lately, and Girardi didn’t see this as a significant step back. “He left a fastball middle-in, that’s all,” Girardi said.

• Bad night for Sergio Mitre, who walked in a run, then allowed a sacrifice fly and gave up the two runs that ultimately made the difference. “He had a hard time throwing his fastball for strikes,” Girardi said. “His changeup, he got swings and misses on. His curveball, he threw some strikes. He had a hard time throwing his fastball for strikes.”

• Girardi wasn’t going to use Mariano Rivera, so that affected his bullpen decisions in those late innings. Both Rivera and Girardi said they expect Rivera to be back tomorrow. Girardi said he’s not worried because Rivera’s been better day by day.

• Rivera was pretty funny postgame. He said nothing had changed since pregame, so he was refusing to be interviewed. “I’ve had enough of you guys right now,” he said. He was mostly just giving everyone a hard time, but he was legitimately not interested in answering any more questions.

• Hughes has no idea when he’ll pitch again. He asked a couple of days ago, but the Yankees told him they weren’t sure yet. Now that he’s through his big league return, Hughes expects to have a plan within a day or two.

• Hughes could have kept going, but the Yankees felt he’d worked pretty hard through his 87 pitches and didn’t want to send him back out for the sixth. “(Larry Rothschild) just felt like I labored in that first and last inning a little bit,” Hughes said. “I didn’t really have an issue with it. I would have liked to have gone back out there, but we were still in the game at that point, and I wasn’t throwing the ball extremely well. Probably the right move to go to the bullpen.”

• There seems to be nothing people hate more than when Yankees hitters give credit to the opposing starter, but Masterson really was outstanding tonight. The guy throws in the mid-90s with huge sink. He throws almost all fastballs, but that’s because its such a good pitch. “It seems like his ball moves as much as anyone we’ve seen, and he’s throwing 95, 96 all night,” Jeter said.

• In the fourth inning, Masterson struck out the side. The four hitters: Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano. “You don’t see that very often,” Girardi said.

Associated Press photos (as you might guess, the AP is moving almost all Jeter photos at this point)

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Postgame notes: “It’s hard to think about anything else”07.02.11

From his spot in center field, Curtis Granderson has a perfect view of Bartolo Colon’s two-seamer. He’s not trying to hit it, and he’s not trying to catch it. He’s just watching it move.

“Even Gardner in left can see it,” Granderson said. “We’ll make hand gestures to each other about how much the ball is moving. It’s definitely moving a lot.”

Colon has a breaking ball and a changeup, but it’s that fastball that makes him so good. It’s the reason he gets so many strikeouts looking. He’s now thrown 13 consecutive scoreless innings, a stretch of dominance that extended to both sides of a DL stint.

“That happened to me before when I went to the DL,” he said. “Every time I come back, I pitch the same way.”

There have been plenty of chances to doubt Colon. There was reason to scoff at Brian Cashman for signing him this winter, and there was reason question whether he was fit enough for spring training, and there was reason to wonder whether he could take three weeks off and return to form without a single rehab start. But Colon just keeps doing the same thing, defying all expectation and pitching like a man in his prime.

“The way he’s been pitching for us all year long,” Nick Swisher said. “It’s hard to think about anything else.”

Here’s Joe Girardi’s postgame press conference.

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• Derek Jeter is finished in Trenton. He went 1-for-2 with a walk and a run. He started one double play and had to make at least one impressive, spinning play. I have to assume he came through the game just fine. Haven’t heard any different.

• As always, check with my old friend Mike Ashmore for a ton of Jeter notes from down in Trenton.

• Speaking of shortstops, you know all about Eduardo Nunez’s 7-for-8 the past two days. It turns out, his only out was caught by an old friend of his. Nunez has known Mets second baseman Justin Turner for a few years now, and in the sixth inning, Turner made a terrific play to rob Nunez on a line drive headed for the gap. “He told me, you can’t be 7-for-7,” Nunez said. “He’s my friend.”

• Biggest out of today’s game had to be Dillon Gee’s fifth-inning ground ball to third base. The Mets had loaded the bases, but Colon got the Mets starting pitcher to ground to Alex Rodriguez for an inning-ending double play. It was a scoreless game at the time. “That was very big for me and for the team,” Colon said. “Because the next inning, that’s when we started scoring runs.”

• Speaking of the Yankees offense, Colon got a bunt down and also went down swinging in his two plate appearances. “I enjoyed the bunt,” Colon said. “When I struck I started laughing a lot, but that’s what I always do. I enjoy the game.”

• Girardi said he had some advance notice that Colon might be this good. “They said he was really sharp on Monday,” Girardi said. “His velocity was good and the movement was good. He’s kind of surprised us all year long in a sense. We weren’t sure what we were going ot get out of him in spring training, and he just continued to pitch well and he did today.”

• A.J. Burnett, CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova are still scheduled to start the Cleveland series. “They’re still the probables,” Girardi said.

• By the way, Girardi said he’s not positive he’ll have an announcement about Phil Hughes tomorrow. That seems a little crazy since he’s on turn to start Monday, but that’s what Girardi said.

• For the second day in a row, the Yankees and Mets drew the largest ever crowd at Citi Field. They had 42,042 today. They had 42,020 last night.

• The Yankees are now 24-4 in day games. That’s an .857 winning percentage. They’re also on track for exactly 100 wins with a 50-31 record midway through the season.

• Nick Swisher’s eight-game hitting streak ended.

• Two more scoreless innings from Cory Wade. The Yankees really seem to have found something there. Russell Martin caught Wade when he had a 0.925 WHIP out of the Dodgers bullpen in 2008. “He looks like he’s even sharper now,” Martin said.

• Sergio Mitre made his season debut with the Yankees and gave up two runs in the ninth.

• Dominant pitching performances for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre tonight, as well. D.J. Mitchell pitched seven shutout innings in the first game of a double header, then George Kontos spot-started the second game and went four scoreless with no walks and five strikeouts. Keep an eye on both of them. Those would be legitimate long relief options if Mitre continues to struggle.

Associated Press photos

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Postgame notes: “He’s the King here”06.30.11

CC Sabathia tried to pass the credit to his catcher. After 7.2 shutout innings. After a career-high 13 strikeouts. After his eighth win in his past nine starts, Sabathia tried to give the credit to Francisco Cervelli’s game calling.

Not even Cervelli was buying it.

“He’s the King here,” Cervelli said. “I give the target.”

Sabathia certainly received the royal treatment when he walked off the mound in the eighth inning. He’s tied for the Major League lead in wins. He’s the first pitcher since Tom Seaver to win 11 games in each of his first 11 seasons. Today’s 13 strikeouts were the most by a Yankees starter since Roger Clemens in 2002, and the most by a Yankees lefty since David Wells in 1998. The crowd roared their appreciation through a Yankee Stadium ovation that lasted until Sabathia disappeared into the dugout.

“I always think that’s nice for a player to hear that,” Joe Girardi said. “That’s not the reason I pull a guy in the middle of an inning — his pitch count just got so high — but it’s nice to hear. He’s really appreciated here, not only by us but by the fans. It’s good for him to hear.”

Girardi called today’s start “brilliant.” Cervelli said Sabathia’s breaking ball was “unbelievable.” Mark Teixeira said it was the best he’d ever seen Sabathia.

Maybe it was over-the-top analysis of a friend and a teammate, but Sabathia seems to inspire that sort of reaction. After today’s start, he was an unannounced guest at Dave Robertson’s High Socks for Hope fundraiser at the Hard Rock Cafe. He managed to dominate his former Brewers teammates, then speak highly of them in postgame interviews. He was careful to pass credit to Cervelli.

“CC could spend a week on a team and you’d fall in love with his personality,” Girardi said. “That’s the type of guy he is… He hangs out with everyone, he’s not a guy who hangs with a couple guys. He’s a guy that seems to attract people. People want to be around him, which is important, because during the course of the season, everyone goes through tough times. This is a guy you know you can count on that’s going to be the same every day and will be there for you. That’s extremely important.”

There are a lot of easy-to-like players in this game, and there are a handful of truly great players in this game. Sabathia’s managed to be both, and it showed this afternoon.

Here’s the King himself.

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• Mark Teixeira laughed off the idea of career home run No. 300 being a major milestone. “Seeing what Alex did last year and then saying, ‘Oh man, I got 300. Great.’” Teixeira said. “He hit 600 last year, so it puts it in perspective. It makes you realize you’ve got a long way to go.”

• Of course, Teixeira now leads baseball with 25 home runs this season, and according to Elias he’s only the third player in baseball history to hit 25 in each of his first nine seasons, joining Eddie Matthews and Albert Pujols.

• Teixeira’s never had this many home runs before the all-star break.

• All 13 of Sabathia’s strikeouts were swinging. Why? “We just tried to follow the hitters, what they think,” Cervelli said. “Every time we think they’re looking for fastballs, we throw breaking balls, and we change a lot.”

• Sabathia’s take on the strikeouts: “Just making pitches with two strikes. Earlier this season, I was giving up a lot of 0-2 hits and 1-2 hits. Today, we made a lot of good pitches.”

• Is Sabathia anxious about whether he’ll make the all-star team? “I want to go to the Bahamas,” he said. “We’ll see what happens. I pitch Tuesday, then Sunday, so the way I’m scheduled, I probably wouldn’t pitch in the game anyway.”

• Sabathia wouldn’t say whether he’d attend the all-star game if he were selected but unavailable (by the way, he also wouldn’t comment on what he thought about a six-man rotation).

• Bad job by Cervelli to let the one strikeout pitch get past him. Nice job to convert it into an out anyway with a great throw to first. “I’m lucky,” Cervelli said. “That guy runs a lot, and I just grabbed the ball and throw.”

• Sergio Mitre got loose in the bullpen, mostly as a side session to get some work after not throwing in about a week. “Good to go tomorrow,” he said.

• Mitre said he hasn’t been told a specific role he’ll play. “Starters have a role, and other than Robby and Mo, everyone is just mix and match,” he said. “That’s what it looks like.”

• This was the Yankees third shutout and sixth series sweep of the season. The five-game winning streak is a season-high. The Yankees had a total of six series sweeps all last season.

• The Yankees stole four bases in a game for the sixth time this season, doubling last year’s total for four-steal games. They’ve stolen 12 straight bases without being caught.

• In his career, Cervelli is hitting .383 with two outs and runners in scoring position. “It makes me feel happy,” Cervelli said. “I’ve been working a lot with K-Long. I was struggling two weeks ago, and sometimes it’s hard, but you have to make adjustments an try to make everything simple.”

Associated Press photos

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Postgame notes: “My main focus is on calling a good game”06.30.11

Russell Martin was hitting .293 with six home runs at the end of April. Since the first of May, he was hitting .190 with three homers, two doubles and 12 RBI in 36 games. Martin entered tonight’s game as easily the coldest player in an otherwise red-hot Yankees lineup.

“The good thing about Russ is that he can go 0-for-30 and you’d never know it,” A.J. Burnett said. “He cares more about harnessing us and taking care of us (pitchers). The homers and the hits will come.”

A big hit came tonight. Martin’s three-run homer was a game-changer, a go-ahead shot to left field that was his first extra-base hit in 68 at-bats.

“As long as we’re winning, it doesn’t bother me as much,” Martin said. “If we were losing more, it would probably affect me more. I go out there and my main focus is on calling a good game whether I’m doing it with the bat or not.”

Through that first month, Martin’s impact on this team was easy to notice. There were numbers and highlights to prove it. He was the new guy, and he was hammering the ball. These past two months, Martin’s impact has been behind the plate and in the clubhouse. The players seem to respond to him, a more soft-spoken version of Nick Swisher. I wrote a few days ago that, while being around this team, Martin’s felt like an all-star, no matter what the numbers have suggested.

It’s also worth remembering that Martin has dealt with toe and back injuries. He’s also been run over at the plate, and he’s been knocked in the head by a back swing. Joe Girardi said he thought the toe bothered Martin quite a bit, and Martin said he’s only recently started to feel like himself at the plate. But even through this slump, he’s had an impact. With a brand new pitching staff, he’s developed immediate relationships, and he’s not let offensive struggles affect his defensive approach.

“You wouldn’t know if he didn’t get another hit the rest of the month because he cares so much about us,” Burnett said. “That’s his main priority… When you meet between home and the mound and the catcher’s got this voice where you know it’s coming from his heart, it makes you believe in that pitch. It’s fun to work with him.”

Here’s Martin.

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• In case you missed it, here’s a quick summary of the pregame injury updates: Brian Cashman said there’s a “good likelihood” that Bartolo Colon will start on Saturday, he said Phil Hughes’ stuff is ready for the big leagues but the Yankees have to decide whether to stretch him out further, and Cashman said it’s possible Derek Jeter will begin a rehab assignment on Saturday and return during next week’s Cleveland series.

• When Sergio Mitre was designated for assignment, I texted two of my writer friends and predicted he’d be with the Yankees by the weekend. Burnett said he and CC Sabathia had a similar conversation in the dugout yesterday, saying they wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankees found a way to get Mitre back in the bullpen. “Just shows you what we think of him,” Burnett said. “We believe in him.”

• Girardi said he expects Mitre to serve a long relief role similar to last year. He’ll be available on Thursday.

• Burnett got some help from his defense tonight — including a nice running catch by Curtis Granderson and a nice stop by Eduardo Nunez — and he took advantage for a strong seven-inning start that ended with a standing ovation. “I threw some changeups in counts tonight that were big pitches and I got some double plays,” Burnett said. “In the past, it would have been fastball, fastball, fastball.”

• I’d never thought of this, but Burnett mentioned it after the game: Before coming to New York, Burnett never played for a team that always packed a stadium like the Yankees, so he never really experienced this sort of standing ovation until he got to New York. “I get goose bumps right now thinking about it,” he said.

• Burnett’s night ended on Nunez’s 10th error of the season, but Burnett made sure to talk to his shortstop before walking off the mound. “He was kind of the last one to come to the mound, and I was like, are you going to smile or what?” Burnett said. “You can’t forget the play he made earlier… He can play behind me any time.”

• Another escape act for Robertson, who struck out two of the four batters he faced. His ERA is down to 1.11.

• Speaking of the bullpen, Mariano Rivera got his 21st save. He’s converted 26 consecutive interleague save chances at home, dating back to June 14, 2001. He hasn’t allowed a run in those games. He’s struck out 32.

• Jorge Posada’s sixth-inning home run was the eighth time a play was reviewed at Yankee Stadium, including the postseason. I twa sthe second call reversed via replay. “I saw that the ball hit something out there above the wall,” Posada said.

• For the second night in a row, the Yankees won despite being outhit.

• Martin homered on an 0-2 pitch for the second time in his career. His 68 at-bats without an extra-base hit was a career-long stretch. That’s according to Elias. I didn’t know that off the top of my head.

• Joba Chamberlain was back with the team tonight. He came to town to have his stitches removed.

• Former Yankees reliever Luis Vizcaino has been suspended 50 games for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance.

• I’m sure I’ll mention it again, but I’m going to host a chat at noon on Friday leading into this weekend’s Subway Series. Stop by!

Associated Press photos

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Is Sergio Mitre this year’s Chad Gaudin?06.28.11

Yesterday, just one day before coming the Yankee Stadium, the Brewers designated Sergio Mitre for assignment. Would the Yankees be interested?

Spring training opened with Mitre as a heavy favorite to win a long relief job in the Yankees bullpen, but Bartolo Colon was outstanding, and when the Yankees decided they might not have room for Mitre, they traded him to Milwaukee.* With the Brewers, he’s actually been pretty effective with a 3.27 ERA through 22 appearances. He’s pitched as many as three innings at a time.

With a placeholder already in the rotation, and a series of long relievers coming and going from the minor league system, would the Yankees prefer a guy who they already know and saw pitch pretty well last year? For all the grief he gets in the fan base, Mitre did have a 3.33 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and .223 opponents batting average last year.

The situation reminds me of Chad Gaudin. The Yankees released Gaudin last spring, but they remembered that he pitched well at the end of 2009, and when Gaudin was released by the Athletics in mid-May, the Yankees signed him five days later. He made 30 appearances for the Yankees, pitching in more games than Mitre and throwing more innings than Boone Logan, Chan-Ho Park, Ivan Nova or Kerry Wood.

Could Mitre fall into a similar situation?

* Wonder if Mitre would have made the Opening Day bullpen ahead of Luis Ayala had he stuck around.

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Spring Training Game 26: Yankees at Orioles03.22.11

YANKEES (9-13-3)
Melky Mesa CF
Nick Swisher DH
Mark Teixeira 1B
Andruw Jones RF
Jesus Montero C
Greg Golson LF
Eduardo Nunez SS
Ronnie Belliard 2B
Brandon Laird 3B

RHP Sergio Mitre (1-0, 2.25)
Mitre vs. Orioles

ORIOLES (10-11-2)
Brian Roberts 2B
Nick Markakis RF
Matt Wieters C
Vladimir Guerrero DH
Luke Scott LF
Adam Jones CF
Mark Reynolds 3B
J.J. Hardy SS
Jake Fox 1B

LHP Zach Britton (1-0, 0.00)
Britton vs. Yankees

TIME/TV: 1:05 p.m., YES Network

WEATHER: Bright and sunny, and as Joe Girardi said pregame, it’s unusually calm. There’s usually a lot of wind, but today’s not too bad for this place. The flags are blowing out to center field, but it’s not as overwhelming as usual.

UMPIRES: HP Manny Gonzalez, 1B Bill Welke, 2B Chad Fairchild, 3B Darren Budahn

ON THE LINE: Sergio Mitre is still in the rotation competition, but he seems to be the most natural fit in the open long-relief spot. That’s technically on the line, but in reality, the most important thing we’ll learn today is whether Curtis Granderon’s oblique injury leaves him doubtful for Opening Day.

OUT OF THE BULLPEN FOR THE YANKEES: Joba Chamberlain is making his first appearance since a sore oblique. Mark Prior, Luis Ayala and Romulo Sanchez are also on this trip and likely to pitch.

OUT OF THE BULLPEN FOR THE ORIOLES: LHP Michael Gonzalez and RHP Jason Berken.

LATE SCRATCH: Still waiting for any sort of update on Granderson’s oblique. The Yankees have seen a series of oblique injuries this spring (including three guys player in today’s game: Chamberlain, Golson and Mitre).

LIKE A FOX: Orioles first baseman Jake Fox has seven home runs, the most of any major leaguer this spring.

UPDATE, 1:27 p.m.: Golson singled in his first at-bat back. Have to think he could sneak onto the Opening Day roster if this Granderson injury is serious.

Also, it’s 1-0 Orioles after an inning and a half. Mitre allowed a run on two hits in the first inning.

UPDATE, 1:45 p.m.: The Yankees have tied it on an RBI grounder to short by Teixeira. Really, Mesa created the run. He singled, took second on Swisher’s single and alertly advanced to third on a ball in the dirt.

UPDATE, 2:05 p.m.: Might see some of the minor league pitchers today. Mitre is struggled in his second appearance against the Orioles. In this third inning he’s balked in one run and allowed two home runs, a solo shot by Jake Fox and a two-run homer by Luke Scott. It’s 5-1 Orioles.

UPDATE, 2:19 p.m.: Might be a little more wind up high because Mark Reynolds just went deep on a ball that looked like a fly out off the bat. Instead, it was a one-out home run off Joba Chamberlain, who entered the game in the fourth after Mitre struggled through his three innings.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Gameday Threadwith 699 Comments →

Friday morning notes: Minor concern in the bullpen03.18.11

We’ve reached the point in spring training when nagging injuries have the potential to become Opening Day problems.

The Yankees are encouraged by Sergio Mitre, who’s scheduled for three or four innings this afternoon. Joba Chamberlain’s strained oblique was healthy enough for long toss yesterday, and he’ll throw a bullpen tomorrow. Pedro Feliciano has a little soreness in his upper arm, and he’ll also throw a bullpen tomorrow.

“If the bullpen goes well, then it’s minor,” Joe Girardi said.

Girardi also acknowledged that, at this point, one or more of these injuries could impact the roster. The Yankees don’t expect any of the injuries to be long-lasting, but Opening Day is less than two weeks away, and the Yankees need to keep these small problems from becoming significant setbacks.

Boone Logan, for example, seemed to be past a little bit of a dead arm period when he pitched a scoreless inning last night, but he now has back spasms.

“As long as they’re just back spasms, it’s usually four or five days,” Girardi said. “They’re no fun, I know that.”

• Girardi promised that he’ll announce a No. 2 starter tomorrow. He wants to let A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes know first.

• Girardi downplayed the Feliciano injury, saying he’s just getting “extra rest” similar to what Logan needed earlier this month.

• Spring results don’t mean much, but Girardi said he can’t help but think about how good Alex Rodriguez could be this season when he sees the way Rodriguez is hitting this spring (three home runs in the past three days, yesterday’s was hit to Orlando). “You do take notice of the way he’s swinging the bat in spring training,” Girardi said.

• Eric Chavez is getting another turn at first base this afternoon. “I really haven’t thought much about his health because of the way he’s moving on a daily basis,” Girardi said.

• A.J. Burnett gets the start this afternoon against the Blue Jays, his former team.

• After the latest round of cuts — Steve Garrison, Andrew Brackman, Ryan Pope, Kevin Russo, Brandon Laird and Melky Mesa — none of the six players cleared their lockers in the Yankees clubhouse. All six are making today’s road trip, and their assignment to minor league camp has been little more than a paper move.

Out of the bullpen: Sergio Mitre, Andrew Brackman, Steve Garrison, Eric Wordekemper, Ryan Pope, Amaury Sanit and Kevin Whelan. Sanit and Whelan are up from minor league.

Off the bench: C Gustavo Molina, 1B Jorge Vazquez, 2B Kevin Russo, SS Doug Bernier, 3B Brandon Laird, LF Andruw Jones, CF Justin Maxwell, RF Jordan Parraz, DH Jose Gil

• Melky Mesa, Jesus Montero and minor league infielder Walter Ibarra will also make the trip as backups.

Associated Press photo of Mitre

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 102 Comments →

Thursday notes: Hughes committed to the change03.17.11

Phil Hughes said this start was a lot like his previous start. The home run he allowed was on a flat cutter, his fastball command took another step forward and his changeup was inconsistent but effective. He called the outing a step in the right direction.

“The changeup was not great tonight,” he said. “But I threw a couple of quality ones and I just have to be sure that I continue to use it and not fall into that pattern that I did last year.”

For Hughes, the changeup is old news, but it’s also an ongoing situation. Hughes was happy with the changeup when he left camp last spring, then he neglected to use it through the first half of the regular season. This spring he hasn’t been quite as thrilled with the pitch, but he said he’s more committed to using it. He’s seen enough results to know it can be effective.

“I’m going to (throw it) just because I’m going to force myself to,” Hughes said. “Last year I didn’t do that. It might not have been outstanding today, but I’ll have days when it’s good. I saw some results tonight on it. The few I did throw to neutralize those bats that really got to me last year, Joyce and Johnson stand out, those are two guys that really hurt me because they were sitting on fastballs.”

Oddly enough, Joe Girardi singled out the changeup as one of the things he liked about Hughes outing.

“I know people harp on that changeup a lot,” Girardi said. “But he had it at the end of last year and it’s just a continuation.”

• Joe Torre said his return to Steinbrenner Field was a trip he’d been looking forward to making, and it was made more comfortable by the fact he returned to Yankee Stadium last season. “I don’t think the emotion will ever go out of it because of what these 12 years meant to me that I spent here,” he said. “But it’s not sad by any stretch of the imagination; it was a great run. You cant appreciate the good times unless there were some bumps along the way. I wouldn’t change a thing. The last three years were stressful, but that’s all part of it.”

• Torre has been invited to Old Timers’ Day and he plans to attend, which means he’ll be back in pinstripes this year. “Whatever (uniform) they give me,” he said. “As long as they don’t ask me to play, it’s okay. I never did that in a Yankee uniform.”

• I didn’t see it, but the word around the stadium was that Yogi Berra tripped again today, only this time he was caught by Rays manager Joe Maddon. Berra is fine.

• Alex Rodriguez has a home run in three straight games, and he has a hit in each of his 11 games this spring. He’s batting .406.

• Nick Swisher’s go-ahead home run in the seventh inning was only his second extra-base hit of the spring. He’s had more at-bats than anyone else in Yankees camp. The Yankees got the win, 3-2.

• Hughes said he wasn’t too down on himself for the first-inning run. He jammed Johnny Damon, who fought off a single, then Hughes thought he struck out Evan Longoria on a 2-2 fastball but he didn’t get the call. “That run I can get out of my head a little easier than a cutter that was flat and just a bad pitch 0-2,” he said.

• Appearing in a game for the first time since March 4, left-handed reliever Boone Logan allowed two hits but ultimately pitched a scoreless seventh inning. The Yankees had his velocity up to 92-93 mph, a nice step forward from his earlier spring outings. “Sometimes that little extra rest in this period is good for guys,” Girardi said.

• Speaking of Logan: He faced four lefties, striking out Matt Joyce and John Jaso, getting Dan Johnson to fly out and getting Reid Brignac to hit a ground ball to second that went for an infield single.

• The Yankees had only three hits tonight, but two were home runs. The third was a triple by Curtis Granderson, who was left stranded. Of the Yankees five base runners — Robinson Cano walked twice — three scored.

• Joba Chamberlain came through this morning’s throwing just fine and will likely throw a bullpen this weekend. That’s the plan right now, anyway. “See how he feels tomorrow, but today was good,” Girardi said.

• Everything is still on track for Sergio Mitre to pitch tomorrow. He felt fine after yesterday’s bullpen. “It feels like it’s been a long time,” Mitre said.

• Romulo Sanchez has hard-to-hit stuff, but his command is erratic. Tonight he walked three in two-thirds of an inning, but Steve Garrison bailed him out with the final out of the eighth. Luis Ayala pitched the ninth for the save.

Associated Press photos, the one in the middle is of Berra and Girardi with Don Zimmer, at the top is Swisher signing autographs. That’s Hughes at the bottom. And I have no idea why I labeled them in that order, but I’m sticking with it.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 385 Comments →

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